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Emergency Vehicles Take Priority in Bay Area Traffic Signal Upgrades

Fremont, a city in California’s Bay Area, is undertaking an upgrade of traffic signals along a busy street there to give priority to emergency vehicles and make travel safer for all users.

A heavily traveled throughway in California’s Bay Area is turning to traffic management technology to move vehicles more efficiently, as well as to better ensure the safety of all travelers.

The project — happening in Fremont, Calif. — is known as the Fremont Boulevard Safe and Smart Corridor. The street handles from 25,000 to 40,000 vehicles a day, and is identified as a priority in the city’s Vision Zero Action Plan. LYT’s Emergency Vehicle Preemption (EVP) technology is designed to give priority to first responders and emergency vehicles by giving them a reliable green light. In addition, part of the goal of this work is to create a friendlier ecosystem for travelers who are not using motor vehicles.

“The benefits are targeted toward transit, emergency response, and people walking, biking and driving — and parking — and future use by autonomous vehicles,” said Hans Larsen, public works director for the city of Fremont.

Fremont is involved in a project to upgrade more than 30 traffic signals along a nine-mile stretch of Fremont Boulevard using technology from LYT, an intelligent traffic management company. The plan is to introduce intelligent traffic management across all 230 signals, said Larsen. The technology is currently operating at eight signals.

Unlike the old-school traffic signals, which were largely preoccupied with keeping vehicular traffic moving along, new technology understands the need to serve a wider selection of travelers — who may be pedaling a bike or walking across the street. Modern traffic management is also carving out priorities around users like emergency or transit vehicles, to ensure those modes are given a higher premium.

“It is now, more than ever, more important to look at traffic management holistically,” said Tim Menard, CEO and founder of LYT. “The LYT platform allows a user to see the many transportation layers needed to effectively determine if their community is meeting their mobility goals.”

Other cities that have deployed the EVP technology experienced up to 18.6 percent faster response times for Code 3 emergencies and 69.2 percent for Code 2 emergencies, say company officials.

Fremont announced the traffic modernization plan two years ago when it unveiled its Mobility Action Plan. The city has taken a lead in other types of transportation technology by introducing more electric vehicles into its police and other fleets.

“How many times have you waited at an intersection where you could have safely crossed the street or made a left turn?" said Menard. "Our roadways deserve better calibration which would result in more green lights for everyone.”
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.